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Giving Societies

Welcome to SC State University's prestigious giving societies, where philanthropy meets excellence. Our giving societies recognize and celebrate the generosity of donors who make a significant impact on our institution's mission and goals.

By joining one of our esteemed giving societies, you become part of a community committed to advancing SC State's legacy of academic excellence, innovation, and opportunity.

Explore the benefits of membership and discover how your support can make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students and the future of our university.

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SC State's Giving Societies

About the Thomas E. Miller Giving Society

Thomas E. MillerNamed in honor of Thomas Ezekiel Miller, the first president of the Colored, Normal, Industrial, Agricultural and Mechanical College of South Carolina, the founding name of SC State University, the Miller Society recognizes cumulative philanthropy from individuals, couples, organizations, associations, corporations, and foundations who demonstrate commitment to the university and higher education by sharing their resources.

These prestigious donors are recognized during a special event that included an induction and pinning ceremony and the presentation of a custom engraved crystal obelisk. The support that comes from the cumulative philanthropy ensures that SC State University continues to provide educational opportunities to deserving and qualified students.  By committing to membership in the Miller Society, you make a difference in the future success of an SC State University student. 

On March 3, 1896, the General Assembly of South Carolina enacted legislation creating the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural, and Mechanical College of South Carolina. The figure who loomed largest in the founding of this land-grant institution was Thomas E. Miller, a 45-year-old black leader from Beaufort, South Carolina. Miller was a lawyer, a state legislator, and a former U.S. congressman who would become the first president of the college.

Miller was born in 1849 in Ferrebeeville, South Carolina, and was raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where he attended schools operated for free black youth.

During the Civil War, he sold newspapers while working on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. When the Confederate government took over railroad operations, Miller found himself in the service and uniform of the Confederacy. He was subsequently captured by Union forces when they advanced into the state in January 1865.

After the war, he moved north and graduated from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University in 1872. He took instruction in the law during Reconstruction at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina). He also read law in the office of State Supreme Court Chief Justice Franklin J. Moses, Sr., and in 1875 was admitted to the South Carolina Bar.

He was active in Republican politics, representing Beaufort in the South Carolina House and then the Senate from 1874 to 1882. He served briefly in Congress, taking his seat in 1890 following a prolonged dispute involving the election of 1888. In the U.S. House, he vigorously supported the passage of the Lodge Federal Elections Bill to secure voting rights for black men.

Miller ran for reelection in 1890 but lost when the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that, though Miller’s ballots were printed on the required white paper, it was “white paper of distinctly yellow tinge.” He lost another congressional election in 1892. He was then elected to the South Carolina House in 1894, and in 1895 he was elected to represent Beaufort in the state Constitutional Convention.

In early 1896, only weeks after the constitutional convention adjourned, Miller carefully shepherded the measure through the General Assembly that would create a separate land-grant college ostensibly under the authority of black people. The final legislation passed on the third of March 1896. Within weeks, the institution’s board of trustees selected him as the college’s first president. On September 30, 1986, Miller and 11 faculty members welcomed more than 600 students to the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural, and Mechanical College of South Carolina. During Miller’s tenure, and that of the initial faculty, the college plant consisted of 135 acres, eight small buildings, a minimal dairy herd, and a few other farm animals.

After 15 years as president, Miller retired as president of the college. He then returned to Charleston and took an active part in community affairs. In 1919, he played a leading role in the controversial but successful effort to gain legislative approval to replace white teachers in Charleston’s all-black public schools with black teachers.

Miller lived in Philadelphia from 1923 until 1934, when he returned to his home at 78 Radcliffe Street. He married Anna Hume, probably in 1874, and they were the parents of nine children, seven of whom survived childhood. Miller died on April 8, 1938.

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